Definitive List of DC’s Dive Bars

Extensively Updated: January 1, 2022

The topic of DC’s dive bars often leads to lively debate-just see the comment section of Thrillist’s list of top DC dives and this Reddit comment thread. Many self-proclaimed dives have sprouted up throughout town in recent years, a phenomenon detailed in a great piece in the Washington City Paper in August 2014, leading to the term “thrive bar“, as well a persuasive 2013 DCist argument from Benjamin Freed that the DC dive bar is dead. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn even devoted a July 2017 package to dive bars with 3 articles: 1) The Top 8 Dive Bars in DC Area 2) Why a Bunch of Bars are not Dive Bars, and 3) Is the Tune Inn a dive bar?;

To settle this once and for all (ok, not really), Barred in DC’s definitive (and comprehensive) list of DC’s dive bars is here (with apologies to many Ethiopian and Hispanic spots that might fit the bill). Definitions of dive bars abound-though this list eschews any particular definition and instead tracks public perception of whether a bar is a dive or not based on extensive Twitter polls given around New Years Eve 2021 (if the Post weighed in, that has been noted). In reality, most of these would be called just a neighborhood tavern in most cities not named DC. Other bars that are “divey” in certain ways but not full-blown dives are also listed.

NOTE: This ranks/categorizes bars based on % of Twitter voters who have visited each bar and consider, by whatever definition they have, the place a “dive bar.”

CONSENSUS CERTIFIED DIVE BARS

At least 2 out of 3 people who’ve been to these dive bars consider them dive bars

  • Raven Grill (Mount Pleasant) – 1935 (current owner  since  1994/1995)
    • 85% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Dan’s Cafe (Adams Morgan) – 1940s (current owner since 1965)
    • 81% call it a dive bar
    • Only open 7p Thu-Sat
    • Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • The Pug (H Street) – 2007
    • 79% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: Close to being true dive, but loses points due to fancy vending machine
  • Showtime Lounge (Bloomingdale) – 2013
    • 77% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: Would be due to cash-only policy, $5 beer-and-a-shot combos, a CD jukebox, Redskins wallpaper in the bathroom, a house band, but too new
  • Trusty’s (Capitol Hill / Hill East) – 2005
    • 70% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: Fritz Hahn says it’s a great neighborhood bar but bus makes it too much like a theme; he said it was on way to being a dive back in 2005
  • Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club (H Street/Trinidad/Carver Langston) – 2007
    • 67% call it a dive bar

CERTIFIED DIVE BARS

At least 50% say it’s a dive bar, but less than 2/3

  • The Dew Drop Inn (Edgewood) – 2015
    • 61% call it a dive bar
  • The Bottom Line (Downtown) – 1979
  • Tune Inn (Capitol Hill) – 1947
  • Recessions (Dupont) – 1996/1997
    • 57% call it a dive bar
  • Red Derby (Columbia Heights) – 2007
    • 54% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive due to roof deck
  • Jackie Lee’s (Brightwood Park) – 2017
    • 54% call it a dive bar
  • Solly’s (U Street) – 2006
    • 53% call it a dive bar
  • Marshall’s Bar  / Flavors of India (Foggy Bottom (1990s/early 2000s)
    • 53% call it a dive bar
  • Ivy & Coney (Shaw) – 2014
    • 51% call it a dive bar

DIVE BAR, MAYBE

40%-50% consider these to be dive bars. 2/3 or more say they are divey

  • Lyman’s Tavern (Columbia Heights) – 2014
    • 48% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive
  • Looking Glass Lounge (Park View) – 2008
    • 47% call it a dive bar
  • Harry’s (Downtown) – 1994 (earlier incarnations since 1930s)
  • Post Pub (Downtown) – mid 1970s / current owner since 2021
    • 45% call new version a dive bar (70% for place before it closed and was sold),
  • Player’s Lounge (Congress Heights) – 1972 (current incarnation 1994)
    • 44% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
    • Barred in DC note: Mystifying result, may be the only true legit “old man” dive bar in DC
  • The Blaguard (Adams Morgan) – 2008)
    • 44% call it a dive bar
  • Stan’s Restaurant (Downtown) – 1970s / current owner since 90s
    • 43% call it a dive bar
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive bar because food is too good
  • Shenanigan’s (Adams Morgan) – 2012
    • 42% call it a dive bar
  • Kelly’s Irish Times (Capitol Hill/Union Station area) – 1978
    • 40% call it a dive bar

DIVEY BUT NOT A DIVE BAR

Less than 40% thought these were dive bars, but majority thought these were at least divey if not actually a dive bar.

Italics-% who thought place was a dive bar or divey, but not a dive bar

  • Downtown/Foggy Bottom/Georgetown: Mr. Smith’s of Washington (in old Chadwick’s) (2015 – 52%)
  • Columbia Heights: Wonderland Ballroom (2004 – 82%)
  • Dupont: Trio’s Fox and Hounds (1967 / current owner 2013 – 73%), The Fireplace (1990 – 63%), Larry’s Lounge (1992 – 55%), Lucky Bar (1997, new owners coming – 74%)
  • Adams Morgan: Bedrock Billiards (1992 – 70%), Madam’s Organ (1992; current location 1997 – 68%)
  • Logan Circle/ U Street/Shaw: DC9 (2004 – 7`1%), Stoney’s (2006 – 52%), Desperado’s (2010 – 73%), Kingfisher (2016 – 54%)
  • Cleveland Park – Atomic Billiards (1993 – 72%), Nanny O’Brien’s (1993 – 76%)
  • Capitol HillIsh – Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (2006 – 72%)
  • H Street –  Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (2009 – 76%), Dirty Water (2017 – 57%)
  • Chinatown/Penn Quarter: Irish Channel (2001 – 71%), Rocket Bar (2007 – 59%) Jackpot (2014 – 57%)
  • Union Market/NoMa/Brookland/Woodridge: The Public Option (2015 – 65%), Last Call (2019 – 80%)

Mentioned as dives but at least half of people said they weren’t even divey: Tunnicliff’s, The Exchange, The Tombs, Black Whiskey, Tallboy, Bier Baron, Lost and Found, Exile’s, The Passenger

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